Saturday, February 15, 2014

You Take My Breath Away

Thought I needed to add a little addendum to my description of this year's Valentine's Day celebration. Turns out my surgery wasn't the only thing that was going to mess up our 2014 Valentine's Day. After I wrote yesterday's post, Chris took me out to eat at a nearby restaurant that I've really been wanting to try. So that was a nice surprise.
The food was delicious and although we didn't have any wine or alcohol with dinner (I can't have alcohol with the pain killers I'm on) we did enjoy a fantastic tiramisu for dessert. All in all, it was a nice meal and a good way to make the best of our already messed up Valentine's Day.

And then it happened. The curse. Chris had already paid the bill and went to take one last sip of water before getting up. I heard him cough just a little and then didn't hear anything, so I thought he was ok. But when he didn't get up and was staring at the table, I quickly realized something was wrong. Really wrong. His face started turning red and he very clearly wasn't able to breathe.

I slid out of the booth and must have said "Are you ok?" pretty loudly because several people turned around to look and a second later, a guy from the bar had run over and put his hand on Chris's shoulder. He also asked if Chris was ok, but Chris couldn't respond. He closed his eyes and made a loud noise as he tried to suck in air. Apparently he was able to get a small breath and he pointed to his water glass.

"It's just water," he croaked in a voice that had almost no breath behind it.

His face was still red and we just sat and waited for Chris to start breathing normally. We couldn't tell if he was getting any or not. He gasped a couple more times and was finally able to cough a little. Slowly, he seemed to be returning to normal. The man gave him a pat on the back and I thanked him for coming over.

Chris and I just stared at each other from across the booth. I had never seen anyone choke like that in real life, let alone on just water. I wasn't sure if I he needed the Heimlich or a slap on the back or what. And I didn't really think I would be able to do anything in my condition. Chris said he definitely felt about 5 seconds of complete panic before he was able to just force himself to take in a breath.

As we walked to the car, replaying the last few minutes in our heads, Chris muttered "The curse continues."
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Friday, February 14, 2014

The Curse of St. Valentine IV: Cupid's Revenge

Chris and I love love love Halloween. We always have a fantastic time dressing up together, hanging out with friends, eating candy, decorating the house, and going to haunted houses and hayrides together. When you think about it, it's a pretty romantic holiday for us. I'm basically wrapped up in his arms through the whole month of October while we watch scary movies, sneak through haunted houses, and dress up in couple's costumes and go to parties together. What's more could you ask for?

Valentine's Day, on the other hand, has been less romantic for us over the years. Mostly because we seem to be under some strange curse. Luck is not with us on February 14th.

Here's a little recap of our so-called romantic holidays over the years:

Valentine's Day 2008: Chris flew out to Michigan to visit and we had a very nice Valentine's Day together. Two days later, my appendix ruptured and I spent the better part of a week in the hospital.

Valentine's Day 2009: We were in our first apartment and realized Oreo had worms coming out both ends. We had to rush him to the emergency vet. After spending hundreds of dollars and most of the day at the animal hospital, we wound up spending the rest of the evening in, checking on our poor kitty.

Valentine's Day 2010: We ate at a nice restaurant, gave each other thoughtful gifts and had really nice day together. A rare day indeed.

Valentine's Day 2011: The year we can't remember. We assume it was decent since we don't have night terrors about it still.

Valentine's Day 2012: Our house was broken into while we were at work. Police reports, bracing our broken door ... the whole nine yards. We also thought our scaredy cat had gotten out and was lost forever. We found him a few days later, apparently finally ready to come out of some secret hiding space in our house. But as you can imagine, the days while he was missing were pretty rough.

Valentine's Day 2013: One week earlier, Chris had terrible stomach pains and I had to rush him to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with a severe case of colitis and was put on a very restricted diet for days. By the time Valentine's Day rolled around, he was feeling a bit better, but we stayed in and had a quiet (and bland) dinner so we didn't upset his stomach.

Valentine's Day 2014: Today. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had surgery two days ago. They removed a large cyst from one of my ovaries. I'm happy to report the surgery went well, no complications. I have been in a bit more pain than we expected, though. I can't take NSAID pain relievers (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) so that limits the pain killers they can put me on. What they have been giving me just hasn't been cutting it.

But as I sit here on the couch, typing up this recap of our bad Valentine's Days, I can't help but laugh. We may be cursed, but at least we're cursed together. Despite all this terrible luck, at least I always get to write "we". Sure, "we" were often enduring crappy situations, poor health, and fear, but at least we were together. No matter what happens, we always have each other.

So yes, this Valentine's Day also involves another hospital visit (that makes three if you include the cat's visit!). I've been almost completely reliant on Chris to get me up off the couch or the bed. I can't really use my ab muscles at all, and my shoulders are killing me as a result of the laparoscopy. Sometimes if I breathe in too deeply, a get a sharp pain in my ribs that causes me to lose my breath, so then gasp for air, which hurts even worse, causing the cycle to start all over. Each time this has happened, Chris has rushed to my side and just tried to help me calm down so I can breathe normally. It's been rough so far, but Chris has been taking such good care of me. And today is far better than yesterday, and I'm sure tomorrow will be better still.

I know it's not so romantic for him, but it really reminds me how lucky I am every time he helps me to my feet or rubs my sore shoulders or makes me food. I've got such an amazing guy as my Valentine. Last year I was taking care of him, and this year, he's returning the favor. So if we get to spend the rest of our Valentine's Days together, taking care of each other and supporting each other through good times and bad, I guess maybe it's not such a bad curse after all. Maybe this is how we are reminded every year that we have someone in our lives that loves us so selflessly and unconditionally. Maybe we are luckier than I thought ...

But I swear to those stupid little cherubs that if my car gets stolen next year or our house burns down, I'm going to publicly defame St. Valentine and throw Cupid to the wolves. Just sayin'.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bye Bye Ceiling Fan

When Chris and I first moved into the Capers, there were two ceiling fans in the kitchen. And they didn't match, of course. The very first time my parents came out to visit, my very sweet father offered to swap out the uglier ceiling fan for a chic, contemporary pendant light from Lowes.
But for whatever reason, we decided to keep the other fan over by the fridge. The years passed and I don't think I've ever used that fan.
And then last week the light started to bug out on us. Sometimes when we would flip the switch it would pop on for a second and then go dark. We had to unscrew the glass and twist the bulb around to get it to come back on.

That was when we knew it was time to move on and get that thing outta here. It's one thing to be ugly, but to be ugly and have electrical problems? No thanks.
I've long since regretted not buying a second pendant light to match the one my dad installed. A while later I actually went back to Lowes for one, only to find they no longer sold that style. I went online and discovered it was actually discontinued. Such a bummer.
I figured if I wanted matching lights, we would have to replace the other light as well as the ceiling fan, which felt like a waste. Plus, that light was only $30, and I doubted I could find something I liked as much at that price point.
But then Chris and I went to Lowes and the clouds parted and the sun burst forth and I discovered that a DIFFERENT company was now making almost the exact same light as the other one in our kitchen.
It has a few tiny differences, but since the lights are on different sides of the room, you absolutely cannot tell. And it looks three billion times better than that old, dated ceiling fan.
This little corner of the kitchen is really starting to come together, right?

And here's a shot so you can see both lights together. They're pretty far apart, and they are also hung high so the one by the stove doesn't get banged into by the basement door.
Here's the new light by the fridge:
And here's the original one by the stove:
We still have to get a new, brighter bulb for the new light. Right now it's a much yellower tone and pretty dim, so it looks like you're in one of those interrogation rooms at night. A bluer tone and higher wattage should take care of that.
Also, a tip for anyone looking to replace a light in their home: Don't start the project when you have about 20 minutes of daylight left. Chris and I replaced the light last night and quickly found ourselves in a dark kitchen using a flashlight to get 'er done. Probably should have started earlier or waited for this morning.

But thankfully, we did it and I even painted that ceiling medallion by flashlight since the center part was pretty yellowed. And in the end it turned out great and I'm sooo happy to have this item checked off the old to do list.
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

This is the Year

I realize it's a little late to be making a New Year's resolution, but in all fairness, I started this post a month ago and then left it unfinished for weeks. So I was upholding another New Year's tradition of procrastination and broken resolutions. But now I'm back on the wagon. Or saddle?

My resolution is to write more. More specifically, to finish my novel (I always feel like a pompous phony when I call anything I write a novel) by the end of the year. I'm off to an ok start in respect to last year. I wrote three or four times all year. All time low. So having already written twice in the past few weeks is pretty accurately an ok start.

I was talking to my bestie Katie about this resolution because she was hounding me about writing more (absolutely love her for that) and she had a fantastic suggestion. Over the past 17 years of our friendship, Katie and I have exchanged many many many emails. She mentioned one in her Maid of Honor speech at my wedding reception (it was a little PG-13 R-rated so let's not get into it now). The point is, I really enjoy telling her funny stories about the horrifying, scary, ridiculous things that happen to me. She said she goes back and reads them whenever she needs a good laugh and suggested that I write more stuff like that on my blog. It'll be good writing practice and hopefully get my creativity flowing so I write more on my novel, too.

Screw writing about what I've accomplished. Write about the worst parts of my life and make them funny for everyone.

Well, that was her sentiment. I'm paraphrasing. And I don't intend to screw the posts about my house or what I'm up to, but I like the idea of adding in some more funny stories and posts that require me to write creatively. It's what I'm supposedly best at, after all.

But I'll let you be the judge.


Have you ever been totally healthy one day and a week later found yourself in the hospital with your stomach sticking out so far you look like you're about five months pregnant?

I have.

No, I wasn't living out the scene from Twilight: Breaking Dawn where Kristen Stewart finds out she's pregnant with a super-fast-growing, half-vampire baby.
And thankfully, it wasn't an Alien-esque moment either. Although at the time the insanity of the situation didn't feel too far off the mark. 
It all started with a stomach ache back in February of 2008. Chris was visiting me at University of Michigan and we had driven back to my parent's house to have dinner with them. Afterward, I wasn't feeling great so we headed back to Ann Arbor. A few hours later, the pain that had been localized behind my belly button was now much lower and on the right side. One phone call with Chris's sister-in-law, a nurse, and we were all pretty sure it was my appendix.

It still wasn't too bad. I think I may have thrown up once or twice and we decided to head over to the student health center. As is expected from all student health centers, they first assumed I was pregnant or had an STD. lol Once they ruled those out, they determined that my white blood cell count was through the roof, further backing up our suspicion that my appendix was staging a coup inside my body.

The count was actually so high that they said they couldn't allow me to leave on my own to get to the emergency room. I had to be taken by ambulance. Keep in mind that the U of M student med center and the U of M hospital are a whole 5 minutes apart. Yeah. Pretty lame.

Chris had to follow the ambulance over in my car. When he lowered the driver's side window to get the parking ticket, he quickly realized that the window wouldn't go back up. Totally stuck down with freezing February air blowing in. Definitely a sign that everything from here on out was going to be a cakewalk and just go so smoothly ...

24 hours later, we're still in that damned emergency room, in a tiny little room with a sheet wall for privacy. Not that I wanted to be left alone. I wanted someone to take action and get that damn appendix out of me. This was the point where I was starting to feel a bit like Ripley (see picture #2 above).

The doctors still hadn't done a CT scan on me, which was the one test that would really confirm that the issue was my appendix. They told me they try to do that as a last measure because they don't want to give anyone a dose of radiation unnecessarily. I can appreciate that. I really can. But when all signs point to one really common and likely scenario, why put off the inevitable? Especially when the longer you wait, the higher the risk of my appendix rupturing.

Which it did.

Before they gave me the CT scan.

Apparently it looked pretty horrifying to see the liquid they make you drink before the CT scan spewing out through my appendix and into the surrounding area. They got their shit together within minutes and had the operating room ready to go.

And then they did two really stupid things. First, a young doctor came over to tell me that since the appendix had ruptured, they were going to have to put a drain in my side.

Here's roughly what was going on inside my head after that:
"You want to do what now? Put a drain in my side? It'll go through my skin and let toxic liquid seep out of my body?
I'm sorry, what the hell does that mean? Am I going to be half human, half metal? Are you going to have to remove or stretch out a huge section of my skin?
How will you stop all my blood from coming out too? Am I going to be like those people with stomas? What the hell is going on? Will I ever be normal again?"

So that's what was running through my brain. I immediately burst into tears and the doctor asked Chris what was wrong with me. Nice bedside manner, jerkwad.

And then a nurse came over and asked me if I had told my parents what was happening yet. Since I had just learned that I was going to be rushed into emergency surgery about two minutes ago, no, I hadn't found the right moment to call them yet.

She dialed my parent's number on the hospital phone and handed it over. And what a surprise, I started crying and completely scared the shit out of my mother. Did I mention it was the middle of the night at this point?

Way to make a bad situation worse, hospital employees.

In case you're wondering, the drain was not metal. I'll spare you the pictures of it inserted into a human, but basically this is what they were talking about:
It's just a small hole that the tube goes in. The big grenade-like thing hangs outside of you (they pin it to your clothes so there's no tugging) and fills with the bad stuff that was released into my system when my appendix exploded.

That's what I woke up to after the surgery. Not as bad as I was imagining. Although I was pretty pissed at the doctor for not explaining it a little better. Just use the words "soft plastic" at very least. Or just say tube. Not DRAIN.

Anyway, I got released from the hospital in the morning and Chris drove me back to the dorm. Window was still stuck down with snow flying in his face. Poor, poor Chris.

A few hours later, we were back in the hospital. I had tried to eat something and it was an unmitigated disaster. Horrible stomach pain and copious amounts of vomiting.The hospital had made another bad judgment call.

The condition is called "ileus" and it means that my intestines had stopped working. They were no longer pushing food through in a normal, healthy manner. They were basically asleep.

So to recap, one organ exploded inside me and another cluster of organs quit on me.

I was admitted back into the hospital and told we would just have to wait for my intestines to "wake up." Until then, no food or water since my body couldn't do anything with either. It was just me, an IV, and late one night there was a nurse and an enema.

For five days I sat in that bed. Waiting. Not eating. Not doing much of anything. Just sitting there, dreaming of donuts and ice cream and everything I couldn't have. My brother drove up and used a crowbar to pull my window back up so at least no one could easily get into the car. That was better than getting flowers for being in the hospital.

And then Chris had to fly to California. We had scheduled job interviews for that week, but obviously I couldn't make it. We had a nice little trip to San Francisco all planned out, which Chris now got to do all by his lonesome.

The world continued without me, and I felt like I was stuck somewhere between life and death. Like I was in a parallel universe, no longer in sync with the rhythm of humanity.

It was weird to go that long without food or water. The IV kept me going, and I never felt hungry. But the days and nights just sort of blended together without meals to mark the passage of time. Eating is such a basic part of life that when you don't do it, you feel less alive. It was a strange time.

The day Chris left for California, he stopped by to say goodbye. I climbed out of bed and crossed the room to hug him. I was about a foot away and farted loudly. Oddly, we both cheered. It was a sign that my body was starting to wake up.

Once I was able to use the restroom I was given some food to try eating. Then I had to wait for that to pass. Finally, I was released from the hospital, this time for good. I spent a couple days at my parent's house before heading back to Ann Arbor.

Eventually, I went back to the doctor's and the drain came out. That may have been the oddest sensation I've ever experienced. Having something pulled from your body, but without any pain. Just a lot of pressure and ... ick factor. lol

Chris and I didn't end up moving to California, so it didn't really matter that I missed the trip, besides his sad day of sightseeing by himself. The lonely phone call made from and In and Out Burger. But I was alive and he had been there for me for all the scariest parts of my ordeal, so for that I was extremely grateful.

The doctor even was nice enough to cut above my tattoo instead of through it, so now my phoenix has a halo. So that's kind of cool. Now that everything is over with, I'm still a little annoyed at U of M hospital for how they handled things, but at least I got a ridiculous story out of it. And now I know that if things aren't going your way, you should probably yell and demand things until you get your way. haha jk ... sort of.

Next week I have to have another surgery, unrelated to this one. I have a cyst on one of my ovaries, and it's the size of a guinea pig. (I tried to come up with the funniest mental image I could in that size range. Would Nerf football have been funnier?) On Monday I thought I was healthy, and on Tuesday I found out I have a huge thing growing inside of me. It's crazy how you can not know something like that.

Once again, I'm feeling a little empathy for Ripley. What a freaking tough chic. Is it weird that she's an inspiration to me? Hmmm... Is it weird that I also just watched all the Alien movies a couple months ago, one after the other?

The good thing is, I'm not in any pain, which is quite different than the appendix debacle. The surgery should be pretty simple and hopefully this time, no ileus to shut down my intestines. And if the cyst does turn out to be a small alien baby or a half-human vampire, well at least I already have the pictures ready for my next blog post.